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The cycle of anti-China info blitz
Before we start off on the main subject matter, the Lorenzana statement in the wake of the jubilant celebration of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) anniversary on the 29th of July held at a hotel in Makati, a note on the ensuing barrage of anti-China headlines after Amb. Zhao Jianhua reports of Amb. Zhao Jianhua’s speech at the celebration stating that “further cooperation and friendship” between Beihing and Manila is ensured, that the “… 1%differences” should not hostage “the whole 99% of friendship and cooperation”.
Just to highlight the counter-spin of the anti-China elements let me cite the July 31, 2019 headlines of ABS-CBN afternoon Internet edition where three out of six headlines were passe anti-China news: protest China’s moves in Sibutu Strait; influx of Chinese tourists a security threat; 2 Chinese caught taking photos inside PH Navy facility in Palawan. All previously reported already rehashed and repeated just to put down the positive speech of Amb. Zhao. We are not surprised.
Now, from the ambush interview of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at the sidelines of occasion where Amb. Zhao Jianhua made his speech about PHL-China relations highlighting the PLA annual anniversary celebration:
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is in the headlines again which reminded us of another recent miscue of his when he commented on the Recto Bank ship accidental sideswiping incident which he had to backtrack from. Remember how Lorenzana had to backtrack from initial condemnation of the incident as a “cowardly action” and later into an admission that it was “an accident”.
The latest one is now the subject of headlines all over the local newspapers which will certainly be followed by countless broadcast repetitions and cacophonous commentaries to fuel more references to the skewed surveys of the well-known propaganda tweaked opinion surveys to hammer away at Duterte’s “pivot to China” policies.
We will take the top pro-American local newspaper’s headline, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, as primary illustration: “Lorenzana admits China’s ‘bullying’; says Beijing’s peace ‘rhetoric’ just ‘optics’“ and cites the 2012 Scarborough standoff between the Philippines under the President Noynoy Aquino and China, over the arrest of eight Chinese fishing vessels in the shoal by the Philippine navy (grey, classified as a military and not civilian) ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar.
Chinese coast guard vessel arrived at the Scarborough Shoal to stop BRP Gregorio del Pilar from the arrest. China Marine Survellance 75 and Surveillance 84 (white, maritime ships,) others followed, blocking the path of BRP del Pilar and halting the arrest of the Chinese fishermen and fishing boats. Photos of Chinese fishermen under Philippine navy arrest stripped down to the waist baking on deck pf their ships under the hot sun supervised by Filipino soldiers under arms infuriated China’s netizens.
Philippine media and websites proudly touted the apprehension of the Chinese fishing vessels at Scarborough that April, despite the fact that the Scarborough Shoals are areas disputed amongst several claimants, and even by the so called “award” of the defunct “court of arbitration” the area is classified as “traditional fishing grounds” where nations and fishermen of different nationalities fishing there since time immemorial have rights to fish there.
While the giant clam harvesting is indeed illegal by several countries’ laws such as China, there is due process in the apprehension of such activities (and certainly not by naval ships).
This photo appeared in many Philippine news sites.
These narration of facts should make clear to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the Scarborough Standoff did not start with any bullying by China but by the Philippines armed forces under the woefully clumsy President Noynoy Aquino and the devious operator of the Salim (Metro-Pacific) group Albert del Rosario acting in behalf of Manuel Pangilinan’s oil and gas interest in the Recto Bank project of Forum Energy.
There is the U.S. angle, in American green card holder Albert del Rosario that should be taken into consideration. The Scarborough Standoff incident seems perfectly coincidental with the series of geopolitical provocations following the U.S. announcement of its “Pivot to Asia” under President Barack Obama. The standoff was triggered at the same time the Japanese government started to negotiate for the nationalization of the Senkaku or Diaoyu Island which provoked China to .
This deployment of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar may indeed not just be a thoughtless mistake but a premeditated and deliberate one to test the reaction of China which the Americans gauged when it probed the Chinese in the guise of a “negotiations” to resolve the standoff. As many suspect, Noynoy Aquino and Albert del Rosario had believed all along that the U.S. would use its big stick to cow China during the standoff.
China has been acting in what it deems as its right and just course in the Scarborough Shoal. It has long filed its claim and expect a fair consideration of its rights, which it has always chosen the path of negotiations to accomplish. It was the Philippines again that sought to use extraneous instruments to resolve its claims and impose them on others, such as its use of the now discredited PCA, the mere clerical secretariat only housed in The Hague.
It is important to constantly recall in light of the constant reference to the “arbitration” as “UN backed” that on July 12, 2016 spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Stephane Dujarric said when asked at the U.N. press conference, “…the UN doesn’t have a position on the legal and procedural merits of the case or on the disputed claims.” A very diplomatic way of saying the “arbitration” has no relation to the U.N. much less “U.N. backed”.
While China was within its legal rights to withhold participation in the “arbitration” the Philippine with U.S. moral and legal support in the person of Atty. Paul Reichter filed the “arbitration” case knowing fully well it was invalid but determined to use the combination of lawfare and information warfare to embroil the countries in an atrocious political conflict that could be converted when desired into higher levels of conflict. China did not budge and held on to “dialogue” and “peaceful negotiations”.
Dialogue and negotiations is not the method of choice of a bully, and China has from the very beginning, in fact since 2002 when Asean and China deliberated the Declaration of Conduct, advocated dialogue and peaceful negotiation to resolve dispute. It was the Philippines under Noynoy Aquino that used subterfuge to attempt to impose a unilateral solution to the dispute and claims in the South China Sea.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte upon assuming The Office of the Presidency chose to take an Independent Foreign Policy and engage China in diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations in the friendliest of terms. China has responded with openness and cooperation while relaxing restrictions that were imposed in the most difficult times under the previous Philippine government, from trade to financial relations, to Philippine activities in the disputed areas. Thre is no reason for Duterte’s defense secretary to disturb the perfectly smooth sailing of the two countries on the South China Sea question.
The Sibutu passage of Chinese fleet.
Las July 26, 2019 Lorenzana was in the front pages and top of the broadcast news announcing that Chinese warships have passed through Philippine internal waters four times this year without informing the government. Why did it take the fourth time before these incidents were noted? Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and the usual junior Amboy Jay Batongbacal even volunteered the information that it was the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning that passed through Sibutu Straits, where did their information come from – information that was later debunked.
China’s envoy to the Philippines, Amb. Zhao Jianhua was quick to acknowledge that some warships have passed through Philippine waters and readily said that the embassy will require those warships to inform the embassy which will then inform the Philippine government officially. Amb. Zhao denied that Liaoning was one of the ships. That was quickly settled and the Philippines can rest assured that Chinese warships passing through Philippine waters will henceforth never fail to knock on the country’s “doors” before conducting “innocent passage”.
Why did the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) make the error of not informing the Philippine government in the first place? From our vantage point, knowing how the Philippine government traditionally treats foreign warships’ passage through Philippine internal, archipelagic and territorial waters with nonchalance the PLAN may simply have forgotten. And the Philippines have traditionally had no way of knowing who and what crosses Philippine waters. It is only during this period when the U.S. monitors and tracks, and informs their assets in the Philippines of Chinese ship movements that the Philippine authorities get to know.
We will remind Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana of his statement to the AP (Associated Press) News written by Hrvoje Hranjski, “Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea”,
December 26, 2016: “Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said both (U.S. and China) must seek Manila’s permission for activities inside its EEZ. The U.S. insists on freedom of navigation and says no prior notice is required for passing ships,…” China has always been of the position that warships must inform the coastal state when passing through a country’s EEZ, internal or territorial waters.
The Sibutu Straits is really at the very distant end of the Sulu-Tawi Tawi group of islands at the farthest reaches of the Philippines. One could easily mistake it in many ways either as waters of Malaysia or Brunei, but it is actually of the Philippines. When the USS Guardian beached and destroy a wide, kilometers long expanse of the Tubattaha Reef the U.S. Navy really, intentionally, entered internal Philippine archipelagic waters to challenge the Philippine’s claim based on UNCLOS (hence U.S. refuses to ratify it) and enters/exits freely without notifying the Philippine government.
The illustration below highlights the difference of the Sibutu and the Tubattaha:
All well that ends well in Scarborough, because the Philippines and China have engaged in mutuality in dialogue and negotiations, the Scarbrough Shoals is open to Filipino Fishermen for three years now, the Code of Conduct is under discussion for finalization, joint exploration of gas and oil deposit between the Philippines and China is underway on terms favorable to the Philippines. Let’s hope wayward and inaccurate statements from the like of Sec. Delfin Lorenzana are kept to themselves and let only the President and/or his chief foreign policy representative speak on matter of foreign relations.